LIVING abroad can often be a disorienting experience. There was my rather abrupt introduction to the concept of mixed recycling when, none the wiser, I’d emptied my dinner leftovers into the bin meant only for plastics.

My German colleagues in the shared kitchen in our hall of residence looked on in horror before providing me with a much-needed education on the environment and what the different coloured containers were for. If recycling was happening in Scotland in the mid-90s I evidently hadn’t been aware of it.

It was similarly bewildering trying to register for classes. Turning up expecting to line up and wait my turn, I ventured into a room filled with people sitting around in no particular order. So much for German efficiency I thought.

And yet there was no squabbling either. Eventually I figured out the system. Whoever turned up simply asked who had been the last to arrive and took their turn after them. It was simple but worked a treat. And also saved everyone standing around for hours like idiots in a line.

Then there was the time I asked a local girl I had met in a student bar out on a date. She surprisingly agreed – then turned up on the night with a mixed group of her pals. Another cultural misunderstanding. Or, more likely, she just didn’t want to spend a night out on her own with a drunken Scot. And who could blame her.

We ended up driving with her friends to a nightclub in Düsseldorf where everyone stopped on the dance floor halfway through the evening to watch a world heavyweight boxing showdown on the big screens. And that was something I definitely hadn’t experienced in The Garage in Glasgow.

Anyone who has ever spent a prolonged period of time in a different country will have gone through something similar. Any number of, mostly trivial, matters that temporarily jolt us out of our comfort zone as we go about our daily lives. How to catch a bus, how to set up a bank account, how to ask for a haircut – these are all things that we can do at home without a second thought.

Throw in the complication of a language barrier in many countries, and it all becomes too much for many Scots to handle given our embarrassingly poor linguistic skills.

Our historical sense of wanderlust doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Our pioneering forefathers (and mothers) would be ashamed by how quickly our pursuit of a new life overseas often ends in a retreat for home these days.

Hopefully that won’t be the case for Aaron Hickey. The Hearts left-back is in the fortunate position of not having to worry too much about the minutiae and mundane tasks that often accompany moving to a new country. There will be someone at Bologna – should his proposed £1.5 million transfer go through – who will be employed to find him a house, sort out a car, and arrange all his paperwork. Just one of the many perks of being a professional footballer.

For an 18-year-old Glaswegian it will still be an alienating experience – even after spending the last few years in Edinburgh. But if young players from everywhere else in the world can travel overseas and flourish, why can’t our prospects do the same? What is holding them back?

There are, of course, a few success stories to counter the vast number of players who either didn’t fancy a move to a new country or who barely lasted a few months then came back.

Marc McAusland, once of St Mirren, has thrived in Iceland, settled down with a local girl and had a baby. He won’t be back in Scotland any time soon.

Ryan Gauld may not have fulfilled the, frankly ridiculous, early level of expectation placed upon him but he has shown a willingness to assimilate to Portuguese life, learned the language and settled down. With that has come a sense of contentment.

Liam Henderson is the most obvious role model for Hickey, now with his third Italian club and seemingly happily committed to la dolce vita.

Keeping an open mind off the field, then, will be key to Hickey’s future success as much as anything he does on the pitch.

Just like former Celtic youth prospects Barry Hepburn and Liam Morrison signing for Bayern Munich, the teenager deserves great credit for being willing to consider another league rather than simply looking for a bigger British club.

In Bologna he will encounter unaccustomed training methods, a different lifestyle and a diverse dressing room culture and all should help fast-track his development. And with a proper support network in place he ought to thrive in that.

That can only be good for the national team, too, as more players hopefully spread their wings a little and take the chance to discover a world that exists beyond this island.

Most successful international teams have players performing for clubs all around the globe and it would not do Scotland any harm either to have more diversity and less insularity within the group.

Should Hickey’s move prove a success, then hopefully more leading European clubs will look to Scotland for future players. And those players in turn are more willing to give it a try.